The latest incarnation of PipDish, the pop-up restaurant created and run by ‘Cooking Without Recipes’ chef Philip Dundas, is tucked away down an Islington side road in the unlikely setting of a Citroen Garage, where shammy leathers and spare tyres have made way for chopping boards and saucepans.
It is here that Dundas aims to keep his cooking simple and instinctive by sourcing local, fresh ingredients and eschewing your standard daily menu for new impromptu dishes every night.
As well as communal sittings for paying guests from Thursdays to Sundays (with meals costing between £15 for a fish supper and £30 for three courses), PipsDish at The Garage also hosts a free meal for older members of the local community every week, highlighting how people and the communal experience of dining are just as important to the ethos of this pop-up as the food itself.
My guest and I did a double take as we arrived at PipsDish, because from the outside it still looks as though you could get your cracked windscreen sorted out there. The only giveaway is the long theatre curtain now acting as a door. On ringing the doorbell apprehensively, a waiter beckoned us within.
The Garage is decorated sparsely, leaving concrete floors, brick walls and corrugated roof exposed, yet a few cosy touches have made this draughty-looking space incredibly homely: twinkly lights and paper lanterns light the kitchen (which is only separated from diners by a bookcase and some crates of seasonal veg), customers sit at benches covered with gingham tablecloths, and vintage bookcases and wardrobes line the walls, making for a unique setting in which to eat.
In a wry nod to the building’s previous use, a crimson Citroen van is parked inside the restaurant, and even provides extra seating. Here sit a cheery acoustic duo, who play gentle acoustic covers while you eat before enjoying the same meal themselves, having literally sung for their supper.
In the comfortable, unconventional setting I almost forgot that not having a menu to choose from was somewhat unusual. We arrived for Sunday lunch, where the starters were a choice between a Mediterranean tapenade with bread and salad, which was very refreshing, or a warming lamb broth. The broth was full of lovely autumnal vegetables, with a slightly Thai kick.
The main course was a proper hearty Sunday roast – roast pork belly and a marinated pork rib, with two types of potato. Added to this was an unusual side consisting of charred red pepper, fennel and other slightly leftfield vegetables. Even when serving up a traditional British dish, the ‘no recipe’ mantra of the PipsDish cooks means that there’s room for experimentation, even after that day’s meal has been decided upon.
If this whets your appetite then be quick – the lease runs out in under two months at The Garage, as a mechanics company has put in an offer to rent the garage. Thankfully it sounds like PipsDish will re-emerge in another guise at some point – Dundas is currently in talks with a TV production company on an international pop-up project. If the food we sampled here and the strong emphasis on creating a friendly, communal atmosphere are anything to go by, the upward trajectory of PipsDish can only be a good thing.
133B Upper Street
Tel: 07503 293 438